HC Deb 08 March 1934 vol 286 cc2166-9

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £513,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Civil Aviation, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1935.

11.45 p.m.


I should like to call attention to a point on this Vote which closely affects many small African territories. The proportions in which the subsidy is paid to Imperial Airways for their African services are, I think very unfair to the smaller African territories, and give a disproportionate part of the burden to this great Government. I owe to the courtesy of the Under-Secretary the figures for the present year, from which I find that between them the Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanganyika, Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia pay £52,000, as against £55,000 paid by the Imperial Government. The combined revenues of these six small territories do not amount to a twentieth of the revenue of this country, and I know that, at any rate as regards Kenya, for this arose while I was still out there, there is a very strong feeling that too much is placed upon the smaller territories and too little undertaken by this great Government. I hope the Government will give some attention to that aspect of the matter, because the resources of these small territories are very much strained at the present time. The subsidy which is given in their name according to this Paper does not represent all that they pay, for they pay also for the mails carried, and I know that in Kenya that amounted, in 1932 at any rate, to nearly another £7,000.

I feel very strongly that this Vote, taken as a whole, is inadequate. Here is one of the ways in which we can build up a reserve of pilots, mechanics, and experience of every sort, and I should have liked to see a very much bigger Vote given to civil aviation than the Government have seen fit to provide. There are many things that might be done at the present time to improve Imperial communications, and when by improving them you are also increasing your reserve in a matter of such importance as aviation at the present time, surely that expenditure is worth consideration. I know that on the African route there is need for much more consideration in the matter of quicker machines, greater frequency of mails, and, if possible, the division of passenger from mail traffic. All that means expense. It is obviously not a commercial proposition, but it seems to be worth considering both from the point of view of communications and of defence. Another thing that I am sure my right hon. Friend knows is the importance of increasing the facilities for night flying on the various air routes. I hope it may be possible for the Government to reconsider the subsidy for civil aviation and the proportions in which it is paid, and to devote a larger sum to the purpose.

11.49 p.m.


I hope that the Treasury Bench will not be alarmed at my rising again. I am not going to ask the Lord President anything this time, for apparently he is in such a bad humour. I should like, however, to ask the Under-Secretary a question about civil aviation. The proportion spent by this country, relative to the total bill, is 2 per cent. In other countries it is nearer 10 per cent., and in the United States it is 40 per cent. This is a very big subject. The other day, in answer to a question, the Minister said that a committee was going into it. Can he let us know what is the constitution of that committee—whether it is Cabinet committee, or whether it is the same committee which decided what proportion of money was to be spent on the various services, because, if it is, it seems to me a very unsatisfactory one.

11.50 p.m.


I should like to ask the Minister one question. It is on the subject of the Light Aeroplane Club. There is only £16,000 put down in the Estimate this year, as against £15,000 last year. The Minister will remember the Estimate of a year or two ago it used to be £15,000 for the Light Aeroplane Club, and £5,000 for the National Flying Service. The National Flying Service not having fulfilled their agreement with the Government, their subsidy has been cut out, leaving the Light Aeroplane Club with £15,000. Last year my right hon. Friend made fresh arrangements with the Club, but the amount put down in the Estimate is less than was expended last year. I should have thought that the Light Aeroplane Club, as my hon. Friend opposite said just now, was a vital part of the training of pilots in this country, and also a means of increasing air sense among our civilian population. It is the only chance for the son of an ordinary man to take up flying. In a large Estimate such as the Air Ministry's, £16,000 is a small and insignificant sum to be allotted to the training of the youth of the country in civilian flying.

This is a matter which ought to be looked into at the earliest possible date. In Germany and Italy—I have not the figures with me to-night, but I know it for a fact—very large subsidies are given, not necessarily with the idea of training, but for encouraging the movement among boys and young people in the villages up and down those countries. It is in such ways that a moderate expenditure of money can be made to cover an enormous number of the population of the younger generation. I hope that my right hon. Friend will seriously consider whether we could not increase the number of the Light Aeroplane Clubs which are able to receive subsidies in the future, in order that we may create a larger reserve of pilots than we have in the country to-day. Hon. Members have pointed out the smallness of our reserve of pilots compared with that of other countries, and this is certainly a way in which we can make some inroad upon this difficulty. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will go carefully into this matter and see whether he cannot for another year make some arrangement to increase these facilities for other Clubs.

11.54 p.m.


I do not think that the Committee, or the hon. Members who have just raised these points, would wish me to go into any of them at this time of night, though they are most important and interesting, especially that dealing with the Flying Club. I will merely say that all these points will be fully taken into consideration, and, I hope, dealt with on the Report stage, in my speech then.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again upon Monday next.